ID Lemon-bellied Flycatcher v Grey Whistler

To: Dicksons <>
Subject: ID Lemon-bellied Flycatcher v Grey Whistler
From: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 16:36:07 +1000

I would say the bird you describe is definitely a Lemon-bellied
Flycatcher. That is typical behaviour of the Flycatcher - ie sitting on
an exposed branch and sallying forth to catch insects (and often
returning to the same perch). They will often take insects from the
ground as well. (It is rare to see a Grey Whistler on the ground). The
Whistler forages quite differently, usually searching quietly and
deliberately through foliage.

These two birds are difficult to separate unless one is very familiar
with them. The distinct habits and jizz are often the best way to do
that. In fact, they would be the two species most confused and
mis-identified in the Wet Tropics - probably more so than the Atherton
and Large-billed Scrubwrens. The Grey Whistler is similar in habits to
the Golden Whistler while the Lemon-bellied Flycatcher is similar to the
Jacky Winter without the tail wagging, replacing that species in the
tropics. If you know the Golden Whistler and Jacky Winter well, look
initially for a typical whistler or typical flycatcher.

The Whistler is basically a rainforest species and the Flycatcher an
open woodland species usually with alot of Melaleuca viridiflora but the
two do come together where the two habitats meet. Lemon-bellied
Flycatcher is not a rainforest bird. Records of the Flycatcher from
rainforest are mis-identified Grey Whistlers. There was a fairly recent
paper published in the Emu resulting from a population/habitat study
where Lemon-bellied Flycatchers were found commonly in rainforest south
of Cooktown - but no Grey Whistlers were recorded! Even some researchers
have trouble with these two birds!

One feature which is of some help is that the Flycatcher has quite black
legs and feet, the Whistler rather grey. Other physical differences are
rather subtle.  (The next volume of Hanzab will have the finer points of
ID for both species I believe).

Lloyd Nielsen,
Mt Molloy  Qld  4871

Dicksons wrote:

>  The ID of a bird that I'd seen is really bugging me. It was either a
> Lemon-bellied Flycatcher or a Grey Whistler. I've been trying to
> convince myself that it's the flycatcher but am not familiar with
> either species so thought I'd appeal to the combined wisdom of all you
> fellow birders. Now this bird was at Five Mile Creek Swimming Hole,
> south of Cardwell (Nth Qld). There were two of them, perched on low
> exposed branches (approx 3m) and sallying out after insects &
> sometimes landing on the ground. I noticed a distinct colour change
> between the head (greyish) and back (olive). Hopefully someone
> familiar with the location or the species can tell me that it was
> definately a Lemon-bellied Flycatcher. I suppose you should tell me if
> you think it was a whistler as well. Any help gratefully received. Tim

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